Who:Starjammer – Empire of the Mantis When: Thursday, 01.31, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Squidds Madden brings his visionary multi-media, multi-instrumental one-man band to 3 Kings to demonstrate that “Avant Garde/Dub-Reggae” is not some kooky gimmick but an evolving futuristic music that is truly a synthesis of deeply experimental improvisational music and the production style that enhances a broad spectrum of sonic frequency, textures and rhythm.
Who:Endless, Nameless, Honey and Salt, Obtuse, Admiral and more When: Thursday, 01.31, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Kind of a math rock show with Obtuse who certainly draw on 90s and 2000s math rock for some of the inspiration but is thankfully more focused on the emotional possibilities when you don’t get tripped up on the time signatures and precision but use those as needed to express the raw nerves of a generation that late capitalism is trying to toss in the dumpster but not without some very articulate resistance.
Friday | February 1, 2019
Who:Maemyth, Galleries, Bert Olsen and matherial When: Friday, 02.01, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: All the other bands on the bill are worth your time. But Bert Olsen, not named after anyone in the band, makes the kind of punk that is atmospheric, probably inspired in part by The Cure and early Christian Death, noisy and vividly emotional and not trapped by the need to sound like another era of punk. Bert Olsen is charting its own path and Hunter Wood’s vocals are both melodic and demonstrating a willingness to crack and distort to fit the mood of the moment. More rock music in general would benefit from such instincts but a lot of it is self-tamed and conditioned, traditionalist stuff.
Who:Broncho w/Pinky Pinky When: Friday, 02.01, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Too many artists and “comedians” have ruined irony for probably another generation by abusing its possibilities and basically by not being ironic, just wannabe surrealistic and too much of a broken person’s public diary presented as entertainment. Broncho didn’t fail in its employment of irony by making sardonic yet sincere commentary on American culture and life. When singer/guitarist Ryan Lindsey was in The Starlight Mints he injected some color into the tail end of the wave of indiepop that emerged in the early 90s. With Broncho it’s more rock but out of step with the tendency of a lot of modern rock music to be trapped entirely too much in past decades. The band’s latest record is 2018’s Bad Behavior.
Who:King Eddie, Briffaut and BabyBaby When: Friday, 02.01, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: King Eddie began as something of a fairly predictable psychedelic rock band but by that time and the release of its 2017 album it completely refined and reinvented itself into one of the most interesting and creative bands in that realm of music. Briffaut is sort of freak folk, psychedelic indie rock but sounds like it was made by people who cut themselves off from outside influences for half a decade or more. Because of that, it’s music is always interesting and left-field.
Who:Dry Ice, Slugger, Satellite Pilot, Rose Variety and Ludoesmusic When: Friday, 02.01, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Apparently Dry Ice is from Highlands Ranch, Colorado. If it’s album 2018 Technicolor Yawning is any indication it sounds like the product of suburban boredom and thus this far into the band’s career means it’s sort of all over the place style-wise but that also means its not locked into being a particular genre and its eclectic quality yields some interesting material that might not have been possible had its members been channeled into a particular local scene. Slugger makes a case for garage and psychedelic rock inspired by classic rock not being totally played out.
Who:Boldtype, The Gamits, Reno Divorce and No Bueno When: Friday, 02.01, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Manuel Lopez was the passionate and affable drummer of Boldtype who recently passed away. This is a benefit show for his daughters and will include performances by his band as well as some of the best local punk rock bands that came up at the same time his group was coming into its own.
Saturday | February 2, 2019
Who:The Parrots + Mozes and The Firstborn, Billy Changer, Super Bummer When: Saturday, 02.02, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Mozes and The Firstborn from Eindhoven, The Netherlands came up during the peak of the 2010’s garage rock revival and toured internationally relatively early on its career. The band was always a little different from the other garage rock bands of that period because its sound was closer to power pop and its musicianship and songwriting had some uncommon refinement. In 2019 the group released its latest record Dadcore. To be fair, the band doesn’t sound like dadcore so much as its the typically Dutch dry, self-effacing and layered commentary on the cultural phenomenon and its own hearkening back to classic songwriting and what some may see as the quaint notion of guitar rock in the twenty-first century.
Who:The Pamlico Sound, Queens of the Galaxy and The Jessicas When: Saturday, 02.02, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: The Pamlico Sound is a funk band lead by Will Baumgartner who went to Woodstock as a kid and who has been involved in the 80s No Wave movement as well as some of the more unexpectedly inventive and imaginative jam and funk bands from Colorado over the past two decades. It’s a spectacle and highly entertaining as Baumgartner is an engaging and unconventionally charismatic performer.
Monday | February 4, 2019
Who:Ron Gallo w/Post Animal and Stuyedeyed When: Monday, 02.04, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Ron Gallo is from Philadelphia but his solo work sounds like he spent some time in 1970s New York in the early punk scene with a wiry energy. Of course if psychedelic garage rock hadn’t happened his 2018 record Stardust Birthday Party wouldn’t have sounded like a bit like a manic Sparks. Whatever the touchstones might be, Gallo is one of the most dynamic rock musicians of the current era. Perhaps co-headlining is the psychedelic prog band Post Animal whose own spirited performances transcend any specific genre of music.
Who:Yoke Lore w/LP When: Tuesday, 02.05, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Adrian Galvin was once a member of synth-heavy indie pop band Walk the Moon before going solo a few years back. His work under the name Yoke Lore is decidedly different from Walk the Moon in having softer edges while showcasing Galvin’s inventive use of layered sound in his songwriting with bright synths accenting his vocals with an evocative flair. He is currently touring in the wake of the release of his 2018 EP Goodpain as an opener for R&B-inflected indie pop songwriter LP.
Wednesday | February 6, 2019
Who:Weird Wednesday: The Diablo Montalban Experience, The Drood and Claudzilla When: Wednesday, 02.06, 9 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Weird Wednesday is as suggested by the name quite a bit this time around with keytar rock sorceress Claudzilla, experimental pop/psych band The Diablo Montalban Experience and The Drood. The latter often performs in costumes that look like a cross between anti-hero crusaders for cosmic justice and occult ritualists with music that fans of Legendary Pink Dots may find very much to their liking.
Who:P.O.S. w/Calm. and DJ Fundo When: Wednesday, 02.06, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: P.O.S. is the Minneapolis-based rapper whose talents and range as an artist go far beyond including his masterful production on his own work as well as his musicianship in other bands including Gayngs, Marijuana Deathsquads and many others. He’s in good company with his sonically adventurous beats paired with Denver’s Calm., a duo comprised of Time and Awareness whose literate and incisive raps and deeply atmospheric production is always surprisingly impactful. Their latest release, 2018’s Things I Learned While Dying in Denver is one of the most sharply critical yet hopefully albums of the past few years.
Who:Drink Drank Punk w/Sliver and Denver Meatpacking Company When: Thursday, 12.27, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Drink Drank Punk sounds like a party game of some kind but it’s actually a punk band that sounds like some 90s grunge-inspired musicians decided to call themselves punk because that’s where grunge came from anyway. On the band’s “About” section on Facebook words have semi-randomly capitalized letters and other odd bits of bravado. Listing one of your own other projects as an influence on the band you’re in? Really? Hopefully the band is good. Fortunately, the other two bands, clearly own the influence of grunge and 90s alternative rock and make it their own. Sliver’s fury and emotionally raw performances feel like they come from a very real place. Especially with Demry West on drums playing with a joy that balances out Chris Mercer’s churning anomy. Denver Meatpacking Company could have been a solid pop band but there’s something cathartic about playing music with a bit more grit even if you’re old enough to remember when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was toppling the glam metal temples in the early 90s without even trying. That comes across in DMC’s songwriting and shows.
Who:Sleepy Animals EP release, Bluebook, Lowfaith When: Thursday, 12.27, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Sleepy Animals releases its EP Mirrored Polygons today. Its downtempo indie rock is in good company with the avant-garde indie pop of Bluebook and Lowfaith’s gentle and expansively moody post-punk.
Friday | December 28, 2018
Who:Khemmis w/Dreadnought, Green Druid When: Friday, 12.28, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Doom band Khemmis has been making waves well beyond Denver for a few years at this point and this weekend is doing a two night run showcasing some of the best metal local metal bands including tonight with Dreadnought and its majestic, folk-inflected, atmospheric doom and Green Druid’s psychedelic tinged brand of heavy music.
Who:Joseph Lamar, Talking Mirrors, My New Dad When: Friday, 12.28, 9 p.m. Where: Denver Bicycle Café Beer Hall Why: Joseph Lamar has been a bit of a musical alchemist and chameleon with his songwriting steeped in dream pop and R&B while taking on various roles as a musician in his band an in other projects. His live show is a mixture of the intimate and the mystical.
Who:Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Denver Broncos UK and Midwife When: Friday, 12.28, 8:30 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club has, since its beginnings in the early 90s, established itself as one of the definitive bands of the Denver music outside the mainstream. With an international fanbase, SCAC, like many of the Mile High City’s best bands, plays small club shows in its hometown. The group’s lively performances of harrowing yet ultimately life-affirming music is reliably compelling, moving and, though highly theatrical, human. For this three night run (also including 12/29 and NYE) the band is bringing in refreshingly different opening act from the usual “same genre” billing. For this show, sure, dark post-punk Americana side project Denver Broncos UK, well worth seeing, but also the delicate, ethereal outsider folk brilliance of Midwife.
Saturday | December 29, 2018
Who:Church Fire: Summer Camp Doom Diary release w/The Milk Blossoms, Wheelchair Sports Camp and Mirror Fears When: Saturday, 12.29, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Church Fire’s latest album Summer Camp Doom Diary was many years in the making from shedding the quaint but necessary early compositional ideas and methods represented by the phase in which the duo was calling itself Sewing Buttons on Ice Cream. When the band emerged into the type of group that could make powerful tribal, industrial dance music infused with a sophisticated sociopolitical orientation it really found its core audience among people who don’t see why bangers are irreconcilable with rich and thoughtful content. The new record is the apex of Church Fire’s most recent wave of artistic development which, in many bands, is where its future music will plateau even if it’s worth a listen hereafter. But if you’ve seen Church Fire in the last half year you’ve seen hints of the future direction of the band all of which is more than hinted at across Summer Camp Doom Diary like mini-prophecies, Easter eggs, of self-liberation for both the band and listener alike. For this show Church Fire is joined by other local visionary artists in the more experimental realm who make music that stretches the brain and expands your inner horizons.
Who:Khemmis w/Of Feather and Bone and NightWraith When: Saturday, 12.29, 9 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Second night of Khemmis’ local showcase with the grindcore-esque Of Feather and Bone and the thrash-core doom of NightWraith.
Who:Pale Sun, Emerald Siam and Wild Call When: Saturday, 12.29, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: When silly people talk about the “end of guitar rock” they should be so lucky as to catch this line-up with Pale Sun’s hypnotic and moving post-shoegaze ambient rock, Emerald Siam’s left field stretch beyond brooding post-punk by incorporating hooks and emotional depth and Wild Call’s gritty, dreamy, visceral songwriting.
Who:Itchy-O w/PPL MVR When: Saturday, 12.29, 8 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Itchy-O is doing a three night run for the new year beginning tonight with costume weirdo metal band PPL MVR. While a lot of its music is some kind of sludgy hard rock the yeti-looking group freely plays with sounds and methods from other styles of music including psychedelia and hip-hop.
Who:Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Munly & The Lupercalians and Voight When: Saturday, 12.29, 8:30 p.m. Where: Globe Hall
Why: This second night of three of SCAC’s NYE run at Globe Hall includes performances from the spooky, costumed ritual folk band Munly & The Lupercalians and shoegaze/industrial post-punk duo Voight.
Sunday | December 30, 2018
Who:Textures: Brother Saturn, Cloudless Rain, Gutter Spirits When: Sunday, 12.30, 7:30 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: The final Textures ambient showcase of 2018 with performances from post-rock/loop-shoegaze/electro ambient project Brother Saturn and Cloudless Rain whose own music seems to be one of freefloating, endless horizons as one would expect from a persistent virtual world chillout zone.
Who:Wildermiss w/The Solid Ocean and Panther Martin When: Sunday, 12.30, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Red Fox Run was a promising band that realized that ambition when some of those guys got together with Emma Cole to form Wildermiss. It’s upbeat, earnest indie rock with interesting tonal flourishes and imaginative song dynamics that separate its musical offerings from the current spate of cookie cutter indiedom. The Red Fox Run guys also bring to the project much of what they learned about promoting themselves beyond just overplaying and oversaturating the local scene in the seemingly aimless manner of many of their peers. This is the first night of a two night run to ring in the new year.
Who:The Beach Boys When: Sunday, 12.30, 6 p.m. Where: Paramount Theatre Why: It is indeed The Beach Boys probably performing choice cuts from across its career with some surprises thrown in because Brian Wilson isn’t a rote creative talent.
Who:Itchy-O w/Radio Scarlet When: Sunday, 12.30, 8 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Second night of Itchy-O’s run at The Oriental, this night Denver deathrock band Radio Scarlet will open the show.
Who:cindygod EP release When: Sunday, 12.30, 9:30 p.m. Where: Pon Pon Why: cindygod is the newest band from the former members of noise rock band Gauntlet Hair. When the group emerged in the spring/summer of 2018 it had grown to a four-piece with a new name but with sounds that fans of the old band would find immediately likeable. Live, cindygod has been a reminder of what a great band Gauntlet Hair was but one that has evolved beyond that era of musical development but with the same frantic yet nuanced dynamics and joyous outpouring of sound. The group recently released the digital version of its debut EP with the vinyl available at this event.
Monday | December 31, 2018
Who:Rubedo w/Fed Rez, R A R E B Y R D $, DJ Polyphoni When: Monday, 12.31, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Rubedo doesn’t play too many Denver shows these days. Its winning, accessible and energetic mixture of funk, noise rock and prog has found an audience beyond Denver. In 2017 Rubedo released Vaca, a sort of farewell album to the trio’s late mentor and musical partner Isaiah “Ikey” Owens. Perhaps this show will include some of the material that will make up its next chapter. For this NYE show you also get to see raucous, insightful and witty hip-hop group Fed Rez and R A R E B Y R D $, another hip-hop group but one whose soulful, even spiritual, sound is rooted in an ability to channel pure emotion in nuanced, gentle yet powerful ways.
Who:Wildermiss w/Retrofette, Coastal Wives, Levi Double U When: Monday, 12.31, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: This second night of Wildermiss’ NYE run at Larimer Lounge will include performances from synth pop band Retrofette, indie blues rock band Coastal Wives and hip-hop production-influenced house music artist Levi Double U.
Who:Itchy-O w/Mr. Pacman When: Monday, 12.31, 9 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Itchy-O concludes its three-night run of shows this NYE with peformance art/synth pop group Mr. Pacman. Traditionally the 3 or 4 members of the latter have performed in costume like something out of an 80s cartoon cosplay demonstration but the confrontational performance will fit in well with what follows with the onslaught of Itchy-O.
Who:Weird Wednesday: Adam Selene, The Jinjas, Vampire Squids From Hell When: Wednesday, 01.02, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: This is the first Weird Wednesday of 2019. The series, curated by independent, underground promoter Claudia Woodman, aims to highlight the stranger or more eccentric and/or more experimental music happening in Denver or dropping in on tour. For this show it’s poet/hip-hop artist Adam Selene whose beats are definitely not the standard faire and incorporates a broad palette of sounds and instrumentation, being more akin to the likes of Eyedea & Abilities and other hip-hop projects that don’t hesitate to use straight up rock and other noisy samples to give the music some edge. A good pairing with synth rock/pop weirdos The Jinjas. Psych/Americana-twinged surf rock band Vampire Squids From Hell aren’t overtly weird except when you consider that at times the group sounds like a strange hybrid of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and a mellower Man Or Astroman?
What:2X4 Duo Fest: Smashy Claw, Sugar Skulls and Marigolds, Gold Trash and Gort Vs. Goom When: Thursday, 09.27, 7:30 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: This second annual edition of 2X4 Duo Fest features four duo bands (thus the name, of course). For this edition, as with the 2017 event, organizer Logan Rainard of Gort Vs. Goom assembled a genre-diverse bill. His own band, Gort Vs. Goom would have been considered punk 40 years ago before what that was supposed to sound like got more or less settled by some codification of the genre. Bass, drums, vocals and raw power with some nods to prog and art rock. Gold Trash is part noise, part electroclash and general pop chaos. Sugar Skulls and Marigolds would probably fit easily into a broadly metal world except the band’s musical range includes their “acoustic” set which sounds more like ghostly post-punk. Smashy Claw is what would happen if a couple of very self-aware geeks decided to get into writing eccentric alternative pop songs. Only if those geeks weren’t wasting our time with filking and had a real knack for good songwriting.
Who:Too Many Zooz w/Honeycomb When: Thursday, 09.27, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Too Many Zooz is a percussion and horns-driven jazz band that performs a style of music it calls “brass house” in that it employs acoustic instruments to make sounds that are like the use of samples in an electronic hip-hop beat. The group has performed with Beyoncé on the strength of its chops and creativity and its own albums and shows are an impressive display of what one can do with instruments you’re using to seeing in other contexts once you engage your imagination to see their possibilities in others. The group recently released a video for the single “Car Alarm” in which the trio brilliantly plays around, yes, a car alarm and makes it work.
Who:Slothrust w/Summer Cannibals and Iress When: Thursday, 09.27, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Boston’s Slothrust combines a kind of jazz-inflected R&B mixed with fuzzy rock. It’s sound has been compared to the 90s revival of the past few years but the structure of its songs often have more in common with hip-hop than grunge and its quieter more introspective side with soulful folk. Its new record, 2018’s The Pact, brings these sides together well in a well-sequenced album that has the eclectic musicality and depth of expression in its thoughtful lyrics that we’ve come to expect from the band.
Also on this tour is Summer Cannibals from Portland, Oregon. The band’s sound defies easy categorization beyond hard rock but it has some loose around the edges wildness akin to Babes in Toyland and L7. Except Jessica Boudreaux’s voice is both melodic while cutting through the fuzzy sparks of the band’s driving forward momentum. Some might call Summer Cannibals garage punk but it’s guitar work is much more compelling than most of that wave of music and its musical vision more coherent as well.
Who:Gary Numan w/Nightmare Air and DJ Slave 1 When: Friday, 09.28, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: For those somehow not familiar, Gary Numan beyond his 1979/1980 Top 40 hit “Cars,” was a pioneer of the use of synthesizer as a compositional element in pop music. His old band Tubeway Army was a post-punk project and that sort of moody, brooding element continued on into Numan’s career under his own name. Throughout the 80s, Numan explored themes of alienation, the impact of technology on human civilization and psychology and the ways technology could be used to write and produce music. Numan also experimented with integrating other styles of music outside his perceived repertoire and his body of work and through the 90s were an obvious influence on industrial music generally and industrial rock specifically. In the 2000s Numan has delved further into conceptual work in his songwriting especially his two most recent albums, 2013’s Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) and 2017’s Savage (Songs from a Broken World). Numan is no stranger to using dystopian science fiction ideas or even simply examination of possible futures extrapolated from the present in his music but Savage is one wherein he posits a near future where global warming has caused a worldwide desert. In seeking answers what remains of humanity seeks answers in ancient religion rather than trying to deal with the world as it is with disastrous results. As with most science fiction a warning with some uncomfortable truths about humans contained within it and a suggestion to seek creative solutions rather than what we think is tried and true.
Who:Guerilla Toss w/Black Belt Eagle Scout and H Lite When: Friday, 09.28, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Guerilla Toss came up through the underground/DIY music world of Boston and New York where it experimented with musical ideas and concepts, developing what might be described as weirdo electro No Wave funk. Except that wouldn’t encompass completely a sound and performance style that includes the threads of punk fury and wiry energy, noise, prog and the avant-garde. The group recently released its latest album Twisted Crystal, an album that seems to transform some of the band’s frantic, nervous energy into dense yet beautifully expansive atmospheres while using its angular dynamics straight into those more fluid. It’s a fascinating mixture of ideas and sounds that is both alien and comforting in a way that a surreal cartoon or live action show from your youth can be.
Who:Modern Goon, Luxury Hearse, A Light Among Many, New Standards Men album release When: Friday, 09.28, 9 p.m. Where: Denver Distillery Why: New Standards Men released it’s new album People Wonder digitally on September 24. But it’s celebrating the release of the record with this show with like-minded peers at Denver Distillery. The Denver-based band has been releasing some of the more interesting experimental heavy guitar music of recent years in the Mile High City but the material on the new album has as much in common with 90s, dark math rock legends like A Minor Forest and Don Caballero as it does with even an adventurous doom band of today though some of that style of deep droning is present on the songs “Tanned Womb” and “Thirteen Alaskan Islands/Pacific Blood.” But it’s the sparkle and drift over the driving fuzz that makes the music breathe and invites the imagination to project onto its soundscape.
Who:Flahoola, To Be Astronauts, Denver Meatpacking Company When: Friday, 09.28, 8 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Denver Meatpacking Company may hearken back to early alternative rock in the grunge vein but it does so with a charming self-consciousness that transcends any mere nostalgic kick. Flahoola as well but their sound is more like an early 2000s melodic stoner rock band that injects more energy into the rhythm.
Who:Weaponizer and Necropanther When: Friday, 09.28, 9 p.m. Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax Why: Two of the best bands from Denver that in another era would have been considered thrash but thrash already happened and today’s metal bands that aren’t going for pure throwback cachet have been influenced by a broad spectrum of music, heavy and otherwise. Weaponizer’s more gritty style is like a more menacing, grind-esque, speed metal. Necropanther’s sound is closer to melodic death metal but a little too animalistic in the vocals for all of that.
Saturday | September 29, 2018
What:Whaaat!? A Festival for Games and Experimental Interaction When: Saturday, 09.29, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Where: ATLAS Institute at CU Boulder Why: This is a one day event dedicated to experimental games (arcade/video, tabletop et. al.) with featured speakers on the subject of gaming and development. Mattie Brice is not just a game designer but an activist in the games industry whose work includes Mainichi, in which players take on the role of the daily life of a transgender person. Her work has also been important on the subject of diversity in the gaming world generally. Pippin Barr, like Brice, is a game designer and educator who teaches game design and programming. Barr’s games are often unconventional and challenge traditional notions of what computer games can be including The Artist is Present, inspired by and involving performance artist Marina Abramović’s piece of the same name. The event gives attendees a chance to witness and participate in cutting edge games and interact with some of the minds behind them. Those interested should register at www.whaaat.io.
Who:Ned Garthe Explosion, Oxeye Daisy and Church Fire When: Saturday, 09.29, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Ned Garthe Explosion makes a good case for why modern psychedelic rock isn’t dead. Even from early on, the show itself has been chaotic and colorful enough to be worthy of the term psychedelic in not only sound, content and presentation. And yet, the songwriting has always been solid and interesting. Oxeye Daisy has seemingly leapt past 90s alt-rock nostalgia into a musical zone that, sure, bears the influences of that era, that is more energized atmospheric pop than anything throwback. Its sound is very much of the present and fans of Wye Oak and Japanese Breakfast should take note. Church Fire has secretly and not so secretly been one of Denver’s most engaging live bands for not just its irresistible dance beats but its willingness to go beyond the map of middle-of-the-road accessibility mixing in noise, industrial dynamic edge and Shannon Webber’s impassioned vocal delivery.
What:Industrial Music For the Masses Vol. 2: DJ Ed Gein and eHpH When: Saturday, 09.29, 9 p.m. Where: Milk Bar Green Room Why: Denver EBM/industrial rock band eHpH has been hitting a strong creative vein of late crafting vibrant and engrossing atmospheric electronic music shot through with a palpable emotional power. Always interesting, the duo is now starting to hit its stride as a band.
Who:Belly Eater, Curt Oren, Real Dom, $addy, Oxygen Thief and Dr. Hamburger When: Saturday, 09.29, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Gallery Why: Fairly broad spectrum of noise and related music at this show. Belly Eater from Ohio is sort of a noisy, Atari Teenage Riot-esque breakcore punk band. Chicago’s Curt Oren does avant-garde audio-acoustic music including processed saxophone. Real Dom from Iowa threads together synthwave and noise. $addy makes bizarro video game music for stuff way more interesting and haunting than Sad Satan and without the disturbing baggage of the latter. Oxygen Thief is true bedroom techno dungeonwave, or something. Dr. Hamburger has landed in Denver from Rochester, New York to share his processed real time environment noise. Somehow none of these acts sound anything alike and the bill is better for it.
Who:Chelsea Wolfe w/Russian Circles When: Friday, 09.28, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Why: Chelsea Wolfe’s knack for making deep, dark, loud music was built on a foundation of the dynamics and sonics of acoustic, old world folk music. Along with her channeling her experiences with sleep paralysis, anxiety and other psychological trauma into her art, Wolfe’s music has an unexpected depth and emotional intensity beyond anyone trying to pen her music in as doom or Goth or neofolk or anything so narrowly defined. For this tour she’s sharing dates with instrumental metal group Russian Circles whose own music seems to come from a primordial place from which all ancient religions and rituals find their root. Although associated with metal, Russian Circles sounds like its music origins are steeped in posthardcore and, like Wolfe, ancient, certainly pre-Christian, folk music.
Who:Lyrics Born w/Indigenous Peoples, AG Flux and Bukue One When: Saturday, 09.29, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Why: Tsutomu Shimura used to call himself Asia Born because he was actually born in Tokyo. But early in his career he changed his hip-hop moniker to Lyrics Born so that the perception of his work would be a product of its own merit rather than through some essentialist filter. To his credit, Lyrics Born’s fluid delivery and vocal centered, funk-driven, songs bring an experimental dimension to a style of hip-hop that sounds like something from a classic 80s era rather than something that is pushing stylistic boundaries. Lyrics Born is now touring on his first album in a few years, Quite a Life.
Who:Cuckoo, Magpies (MT), Grave Moss and Surrender Signal When: Saturday, 09.29, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Magpies got started in Havre, Montana, close to the Canadian border, in 2006 and given its bright, introspective indie rock probably didn’t find too big an audience at home before moving to Missoula in 2012 where, like most bands that don’t have some kind of marketing budget or an influential PR team, it plays to small rooms regularly. But the band did what not every group does, it went on tour and has released multiple albums including 2017’s Annex. Brooding, fuzzy and anthemic, it’s something for fans of Rainer Maria and Eleventh Dream Day.
Rounding out the bill are three Denver bands that resist pat classification. Cuckoo may have at one point sounded a little like a math rock version of a hardcore band but now that math-y side has become more dominant with intricate guitar work in the context of a spare and simple songwriting context. Grave Moss is sort of like a death rock band if that band wasn’t brooding so much as burning with nervous energy and dynamics. Surrender Signal’s mixture of introspective moods, cool melodies peppered with atonal highlights and emotional urgency is reminiscent of acts on the Teenbeat imprint and early Merge Records.
Who:Courtney Barnett w/Waxahatchee When: Saturday, 09.29, 8 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Courtney Barnett’s witty, self-effacing songwriting goes beyond merely clever wordplay and a poignant observation here and there. It’s often as though she’s tapping into a modern contemporary zeitgeist or able to express her experiences, feelings and imagined scenarios in a way that is immediately relatable to anyone that has taken some time to ponder what life is all about or at least be amused by circumstances that resist immediate interpretation. Throughout her career, Barnett has been especially adept at humanizing anxiety as experienced. Barnett doesn’t treat the experience as simply a condition to be treated in a clinical fashion, rather she articulates with telling details and humor how that emotional wrecking ball affects one’s life in a myriad of ways, shining a compassionate light on its several darkened corners of in the psyche. You can pick up anywhere in Barnett’s catalog and get a record worth taking the time to delve into but her 2018 album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, is a seemingly more subdued affair sonically speaking if not so much in the words. When you call songs “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch” and “Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence” you’re not mincing words and on the new record Barnett spares us the niceties in favor of personal truth.
Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee is no stranger to laying bare a powerful vulnerability in her own songwriting and performances. Her own storytelling has a warmth and intimacy that when coupled with the spacious, expansive quality of the music an impact that lingers with you long after the song is over. Crutchfield transmogrifies the fear, uncertainty and anxiety at the heart of the experiences of most people living today in this crumbling and increasingly demanding civilization into anthems of to soothe and comfort without sugarcoating the way things are. Waxahatchee released the Great Thunder EP in 2018.
Sunday | September 30, 2018
Who:Courtney Barnett w/Waxahatchee When: Sunday, 09.30, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: For Waxahatchee and Courtney Barnett see above for 09.29.
Who:Earthless w/Mad Alchemy and Green Druid When: Sunday, 09.30, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: San Diego’s Earthless is on a surface level a sort of bluesy psychedelic rock band akin to Mountain or Uriah Heep. Except with a modern sensibility like its members have already heard and been imprinted a bit by peers like Dead Meadow and Sleep. But Earthless’ embrace of the imagery of natural mysticism and the aesthetics of kosmische musik gives its music an air of otherworldliness even as it employs rock and roll sounds and rhythms that may be familiar to many of its listeners. Its new album, 2018’s Black Heaven, has the band following the rabbit hole of its musical intuition down paths it might not have taken if the songwriting was consciously crafted with standard song structure.
What:Textures: Chromadrift, Blank Human and Ancient Inc. When: Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This latest edition of the Textures ambient showcase features dream pop/guitar drone artist Chromadrift, Blank Human’s modular synth compositions (Blank Human’s Dan Coleman is also in experimental electronic/industrial duo Luxury Hearse) and Ancient Inc., a project that uses field recordings, ancient acoustic instruments and production to create its textured sonic atmospheres.
Who: Brighter Death Now w/Theologian, Echo Beds, Page 27 and Gruesome Relics When: Sunday, 9 p.m. Where: TBA Why: As Brighter Death Now, Roger Karmanik has been a prolific and influential maker of forbidding industrial soundscapes and noise. His now defunct record label Cold Meat Industry introduced the world to some of the most innovative and challenging music of its time from 1987 to 2013. This is a rare chance to see the Swedish artist live in Denver with a handful of like-minded local acts.
Monday | October 1, 2018
Who:The Presets w/Blood Red Shoes When: Monday, 10.01, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: The Presets from Sydney, Australia is a duo making the kind of electronic pop that on the surface is fun, high energy dance music. But their latest album, 2018’s Hi Viz makes it more obvious the depth of influence and innovation going on underneath what seems obvious. “Beethoven” and other tracks are reminiscent of the dark, cavernous, mysterious club vibe that was an aspect of the music of Underworld in the 90s—a calming tone amid urgent rhythms. Along with fellow Sydney electronic artist Flume, The Presets helped to bring Australia’s dance music world to a global audience. Even though Hi Viz, as the name suggests, was aimed at broadening the duo’s potential fan base with a diversity of musical ideas loaded into the tracks, the experiments also made for one of the more interesting electronic albums of this year thus far.
Who:The Breeders w/Sasami and Boyhollow When: Monday, 10.01, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Alternative rock band The Breeders came through Colorado in the spring touring in support of its 2018 album All Nerve. While one of the band’s stronger efforts of the past twenty years it also includes an interesting pick of a cover song with “Archangel’s Thunderbird” by classic psychedelic prog band Amon Duul II. The band is also bringing along Sasami as in Sasami Ashworth, former member of Cherry Glazerrr, on her solo tour in the wake of the release of a couple of acclaimed singles.
Who:Lucy Spraggan w/The Dollhouse Thieves, Sarah Slaton When: Monday, 10.01.18 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Lucy Spraggan is a singer/songwriter from the UK who was already making a name for herself as an artist of note before auditioning for The X Factor and, in fact, had already signed to Columbia before any episode in which she appeared aired to the public. Spraggan is an LGBTQ activist in the UK and she and her partner foster disadvantaged children and that points to the compassion and and emotional strength of her songwriting. 2017’s I Hope You Don’t Mind Me Writing is brimming with the aforementioned along with an irreverent and sometimes self-deprecating sense of humor. Spraggan’s new album is set for release in 2019 but for this tour you may get to hear some of that material.
Who:IDLES w/Bambara When: Monday, 10.01.18, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: IDLES from Bristol, UK put out an album in 2018 called Joy as an Act of Resistance. A bold title and one the band was able to live up to at a time when too much of punk is fairly traditionalist in most ways. Musically it’s more experimental than a lot of punk and could be considered post-punk but the vibe is there and the critique of cultural distraction as aspirational reward, fake do-gooders, self-destruction and toxic masculinity is refreshing. Also on the tour is Brooklyn, New York’s Bambara. There’s a lot of darkwave-inspired bands and a new post-punk revival that’s been going on for nearly a decade but Bambara manages to stand out with some genuinely deep personal darkness in the vocals and sonics reminiscent of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and The Birthday Party in post-come down mode. It’s own 2018 album, Shadow On Everything, delivers on the promise of that title.
Tuesday | October 2, 2018
Who:<PIG>, eHpH, Offerings to Odin, and DJ n810 When: Tuesday, 10.02, 7 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Raymond Watts of <PIG> has been an influential figure on the sound and aesthetics of industrial music going back to the early-to-mid 80s as a producer, an artist and a sound engineer. While touring with Einsturzende Neubauten he had to tangle with a challenging live sound situation with that band’s use of large art pieces and experiments as noisemakers as well as more conventional instrumentation. He contributed to some of KMFDM’s most interesting work and with <PIG> he was an innovator in both industrial rock and finely sculpted ambient music. For this tour it’s mostly going to industrial rock but Watts’ stage performance draws on the antics of Freddie Mercury and Rob Halford and the aesthetics of a Kenneth Anger’s 1963 film Scorpio Rising. Or if not, that’s what it looked like while he was touring with Ohgr over the summer of 2018.
Who:Vase Vide w/Patrick Hale Coyle and Housekeys When: Tuesday, 10.02, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Gallery Why: Vase Vide is yet more proof that Colorado Springs is “hiding” some of Colorado’s most interesting bands. Sure, synth pop, but too weird and inherently experimental for just that. Daniel Oglesby’s and Kellie Palmblad’s vocal layers and treatments are certainly accessible but challenge conventional notions of what forms pop music can take. Along with the music and visual presentation of the band, Vase Vide may not be so well-known in Denver but the quality of the imagination going into its music and concept should garner the group national and international attention.
Wednesday | October 3, 2018
What:Weird Wednesday: Enji, Dr. Hamburger and Gothsta When: Wednesday, 10.03, 9 p.m. doors/9:15 show Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: October’s Weird Wednesday will be extra weird with video game electronics/guitar looping from Enji who will probably perform in an unusual mask. Gothsta is Weird Wednesday host Claudia Woodman’s keytar band and so a bit of glam presentation and the odd but on point cover. Dr. Hamburger is Cameron Farrash from Rochester, New York whose layers of textured beats, drone, harsh noise and ambient tones creates a surreal, even otherworldly ambiance.
Who:GLAARE, Fearing, Echo Beds and Voight When: Thursday, 01.25, 9 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Los Angeles-based post-punk bands GLAARE and Fearing will bring their lushly dark compositions to Mutiny, sharing the stage with like-minded Denver acts Echo Beds and Voight. GLAARE’s sound is closer to shoegaze bands with a strong electronic production component like Slowdive and Seefeel. Fearing shares some of those tendencies for slow, soaring atmospheres but with a darker flavor. Both bands had 2017 releases, GLAARE’s To Deaf and Day and Fearing’s Black Sand so expect a show that favors that era of each band’s music. Fans of Black Marble, John Maus and The Prids will find plenty to like about this show.
Who:LANDLINES film premiere w/Dinosaur Jr and Thurston Moore DJ set When: Thursday, 01.25, 6:15 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Vans is releasing its first full-length snowboard film, LANDLINE. Directed by Tanner Pendleton, who made Crazy Loco, about renowned young snowboarder Jed Anderson the screening will be preceded by a panel discussion with filmmakers and others affiliated with the production of the film. The presentation will include a performance from Dinosaur Jr who did some music for the soundtrack as well as a DJ set from Thurston Moore. It’s free but to attend please click the link above or here to RSVP.
Friday | January 26, 2018
Who:Night Grinder album release w/Kid Mask and Muscle Brain When: Friday, 01.26, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Brad Schumacher is a veteran of the Saint Louis noise scene and when he relocated to Denver a few years back his Night Grinder project was a unique combination of experimental bass playing and noisy soundscapes. His new album Animus bridges musical worlds: industrial, noise, ambient, IDM and glitchcore. Although sometimes abrasive and alien, Animus has an undeniable immediacy and intimacy that is the hallmark of Schumacher’s work generally. On the occasion of the release of the album, Night Grinder will be joined by post-punk band Muscle Brain and experimental electronic wunderkind, Kid Mask.
Who:Denver Meatpacking Company, Vic N’ The Narwhals and Waiting Til Three When: Friday, 01.26, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: With the most recent garage rock revival in the rearview with some stubborn holdouts still grinding it out, now increasingly replaced with the inevitable re-invention and resurgence of the kind of fuzzy rock style popular in the 90s, the oversaturation point of the next wave is rapidly approaching. Fortunately, Denver Meatpacking Company is doing it right by writing songs in the quiet-loud vein popularized by Mission of Burma and then Pixies by giving the songwriting a mature but not tamed edge. Vic N’ The Narwhals are clearly influenced by garage rock, psychedelia and more classic rock and roll but blend enough raw energy with sophisticated songcraft to bypass immediate comparisons. Waiting Til Three often seems like the duo took some cues from In the Whale and 2000s garage rock but it has enough genuinely tender material to make you not think it’s not just another band riding that retro music nostalgia train.
Who:EVP, eHpH, Church Fire and Angel War When: Friday, 01.26, 7 p.m. Where: Flux Capacitor 2.0 Why: Some of Denver’s finest darkwave artists will perform at Flux in Colorado Springs this night. The forbidding, darkly luminous industrial pop of EVP, eHpH’s thorny EBM and Church Fire’s politically charged and fiery dance song rituals will make that library building the place to be in the Springs for the duration of the show.
Saturday | January 27, 2018
Who:STRFKR w/Reptaliens When: Saturday, 01.27, 8 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: STRFKR has come a long way since starting as a Joshua Hodges solo project. But the components of the bands sound have remained consistent even as it has refined and evolved from a more indie-synthpop sound of its early albums. The band’s first three albums were a great soundtrack to suburban aspirational daydreaming of a more meaningful existence minus the anxiety. By the time of 2013’s Miracle Mile, STRFKR’s sound wended toward the more funk end of its musical instincts, reflecting its full-band lineup at that point. 2016’s Being No One Going Nowhere fully incorporated the robust low-end that buoyed the more laid back melodies for which that band had become known. In 2017 the band delved into its backlog of unreleased material for three volumes of rarities. But beyond just an “odds and sods” collection, the three volumes of Vault trace Hodges’ personal struggles and unguarded moments as a musician channeled into creative endeavors. With any luck, you’ll get to hear some of this material on the current STRFKR tour.
Who:Circuit Des Yeux w/Howling Hex When: Saturday, 01.27, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: 2017’s Reaching For Indigo is the latest album from Chicago’s Circuit Des Yeux, the more or less solo project of Haley Fohr. With the project, Fohr has explored human relationships, including socialized roles and identity, in a deep way paired with accessible yet boundary pushing music that is beholden to neither pop or avant-garde conventions. The live show is performance art as much as musical so go expecting to see something different from the usual sort of thing you’d see at a small bar/venue like Larimer Lounge. Also on the bill is Denver’s Howling Hex, the long-running project of Neil Michael Hagerty who some may know from his days in Royal Trux and Pussy Galore. Howling Hex finds Hagerty and his collaborators taking concepts and rhythms pioneered by ranchero and norteño artists in making repetition of theme and meter a hypnotic and creative form of songcraft. Of course Hagerty injects other elements of sound into the mix making Howling Hex really unlike any other band with his own roots in music and not much obviously like a Mexican folk style band either.
Who:Church Fire, Eyebeams and Milk Blossoms When: Saturday, 01.27, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Church Fire never bores with its compelling, inspiring shows with music that mixes fiery punk attitude with noise, synth pop and electronic dance music. The Milk Blossoms turn vulnerable, fragile musical and emotional elements into powerful, deeply affecting songs that are somehow both cathartic, gentle and thought provoking. Eyebeams prove that psychedelia had places to go that were not rooted in the garage rock of the past decade. Songwriter and singer Suzi Allegra’s words creatively suss out the intricacies of identity and dreaming with immediacy and insight.
Sunday | January 28, 2018
Who:Dirty Fences w/Sliver and Fast Eddy When: Sunday, 01.27, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Brooklyn’s Dirty Fences sound like the group immersed itself in classic power pop, 70s Oz rock and American proto-punk and carved its own sound out of that raw material. Its latest record, 2017’s Goodbye Love sounds like an homage to life in its ups and downs, to taking risks for fun and experiences beyond everyday mundanity and to the stories that come out of being willing to saying yes to promising opportunities as they come your way. Sliver melds the vitality and aggression of East Coast post-hardcore with the darkness and edge of early 90s grunge into a surprisingly effective amalgamation.
Who:Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band w/Nicki Bluhm When: Monday, 01.29, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Josh Ritter sounds nothing like Neil Young. But he shares Young’s knack for having a consistent, identifiable sound while seemingly never allowing himself to get stagnant or stuck in a boring rut. He also has a similar ability to find ways to talk about everyday life in a way that provides insight and an intimate view into his own psyche, flaws and all without getting maudlin. His latest record, Gathering, is warmly upbeat and almost celebratory while giving a sense of an introspective mood—like you’re being invited into a series of private moments with a friend who isn’t trying to hide or isolate but is still a little emotionally raw from life’s slings and arrows of late.
Who:Breakdancing Ronald Reagan (album release) w/Stye, Docile Rottweiler, Ancient, INC., DJ Anime Love Hotel When: Monday, 01.29, 7 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Breakdancing Ronald Reagan aka Jonathan Cash is releasing his first album as a Denver resident. Even while based in Austin until 2017, Cash was no stranger to the Denver noise scene as a performer at Denver Noise Fest and other events in town. His combination of harsh noise and surrealistic sound collage along with a sometimes confrontational but always visceral performance has made his shows a hit with noiseniks beyond his usual bases of operations. Also on the bill is Stye, the solo project of Nick Salmon of Voight, H. Lite (formerly Bollywood Life) and other local luminaries of the noise world.
Who:The Black Angels w/Ron Gallo When: Thursday, 10.26, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: The cover of The Black Angels’ new record, Death Song, itself is a commentary on what’s going on in American culture now and its ripple effect beyond the nation’s borders. Red, white and blue in repeating, circles within larger circles, hypnotic and disorienting, an image suggesting chaos but one that also hints at the possibility of a return to some semblance of coherence and peace. The image, designed by guitarist Christian Bland, is part graphic design style and part minimalist art, much like his work on previous Black Angels albums, but one that suggests movement and confused stasis.
The album’s music bears out those qualities with some of the group’s heaviest and most politically pointed, but never preachy, material to date. The Black Angels were one of the bands that pre-dated the relatively recent wave of psychedelic rock having begun life in 2004 and its own career helped to influence and shape the sound of modern psych with its own music and direct advocacy through Levitation (formerly Austin Psych Fest) and The Reverberation Appreciaion Society. While one of the bigger acts out of psychedelic rock today, The Black Angels and other psych acts make the kind of music that resists full commercial co-optation.
As a live act The Black Angels has always been one that integrates the visual presentation of the music with the sounds so that the experience of the show is one that reflects the experience intended with the creation of the music. This time out the urgency, the heaviness, the fear, anxiety and the catharsis that we all hope comes about on the other end of the current national and international nightmare unfolding as we speak.
Who:Me Me Monster, Gort Vs. Goom and Television Generation When: Thursday, 10.26, 9 p.m. Where: Your Mom’s House Why: Gort Vs. Goom is a bass and drums duo who perform a kind of eccentric punk and jazz hybrid that may remind some listeners of Primus but it’s weirdness has as much to do with one of that band’s influences, The Residents, as with any post-Mr. Bungle art rock band. GvG (for MMO nerds even if not fully intentional on the part of the band) also often perform in costume or some sort of get-up. And Me Me Monster and its commitment to theater and spectacle is a good fit but its own warped hard rock sounds like what might happen if Neil Young got into making psychedelic prog but went through a weirdo jazz phase teaming up with Robin Trower. Television Generation isn’t overtly weird. It’s brand of fuzzy punk, psychedelic garage rock and pop bears some comparison to Love Battery but there is even more of a sardonic sense of humor informing its songwriting and presentation.
Who:Perry Weissman 3, Roger Green and Andy Monley When: Thursday, 10.26, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Perry Weissman 3 is a long-running avant-garde jazz and rock band that was perhaps most active in the 90s and earl 2000s. Roger Green is the genius guitarist and avant-garde composer who may be best known for his stint in local slowcore band The Czars, which included experimental pop songwriter John Grant. And hey, while we’re talking about former members of The Czars, the band’s other guitarist and vocalist, Andy Monley, is on this bill as well. Monley, however, has plenty of respectable music outside The Czars including his still going tenure with alternative rock band/country punk weirdos, Jux County and his exquisitely written and thoughtful solo material.
Who:Jerkagram, The Uglys, Chromadrift, Sleeping Bears and December Eleventh When: Thursday, 10.26, 8 p.m. Where: Bar Bar (Carioca Café) Why: Jerkagram from Los Angeles is one of those bands that didn’t really fit in a single genre of music so its styles can be all over the place and all at once. But loosely more on the heavier and math-y end of things. In some ways the band is reminiscent of former Denver art rock weirdoes Action Friend who now live and play in L.A.. The Uglys get dubbed this and that and probably haven’t fully decided what they are themselves. How a band can remind you of both Mudhoney, At the Drive-In and Fu Manchu all at once I don’t know but that’s The Uglys for you. Some screamy stoner rock, if you will. Chromadrift? As in Drew Miller? The IDM/ambient artist whose music is so ethereally beautiful it immediately transports you to a better place? Indeed. Filling out the bill are Sleeping Bears and December Eleventh, progressive metal bands from Georgia.
Friday: October 27, 2017
Who:Brujeria w/Powerflo and Piñata Protest When: Friday, 10.27, 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Brujeria is almost pure schtick as a North Mexico drug cartel/national liberation group/band. Death metal, grindcore, unabashed takedowns of questionable politicians like Donald Trump (pre/post-presidency) and lots of cartoonishly dark humor. But the music to some extent transcends the joke because the musicians are members of other well-known heavy acts like Napalm Death, Carcass, Cradle of Filth, Criminal and others. Opening act Piñata Protest is a highly entertaining hybrid of ska punk and Norteño.
Who:Chelsea Wolfe and Youth Code When: Friday, 10.27, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Chelsea Wolfe has spent her career writing in a variety of musical styles but all of it has been a vehicle for her stark rendering of emotional turmoil and channeling that into challenging yet entrancing works of art. Wolfe’s last few records have brought forth in explicable form the subconscious ghosts that have long haunted the songwriter. Her latest, 2017’s Hiss Spun, is the heaviest set of songs Wolfe has yet released. Heavy but also heady and sonically expansive. If some of Wolfe’s previous records could feel and sound claustrophobic as a reflection of an insular creative vision, Hiss Spun is that vision opened up and shared more fully with anyone who might want to share in that experience as someone well-acquainted with personal demons and/or as someone that appreciates an authentic emotional experience so intensely realized.
Youth Code while a different animal musically, is a great fit for this tour because Sarah Taylor’s own unrelenting emotional intensity on stage is something to witness. The band’s dark, industrial bursts of tones and rhythm have evolved considerably since its earliest recordings and 2016’s Commitment to Complications revealed a band that is more than a thrilling jackhammer of aggressive music. There is a moody underbelly and a catharsis of internalized melancholy alongside the desperation you’d expect.
Who:Church Fire and Motion Trap When: Friday, 10.27, 9 p.m. Where: Black Shirt Brewery Why: It could be argued that both of the bands on the bill are electronic dance bands of the highest order because they are. Motion Trap, though, is tends toward bright tones and more keyed into the kind of aesthetic for dance clubs because it is very upbeat. But its music is way too steeped in strong pop songwriting to fully fit in that world. One of the few bands it does seem to fit in with is Church Fire whose dark undertones, politically-charged, noisy synth pop is one of the most exciting bands in Denver or anywhere right now. It’s own unabashed embrace of hip-hop beat production and industrial and dance music isn’t necessarily obvious. This will be an outdoor show starting at 8 p.m. so bring warm clothing.
Who:Mux Mool, atruc, RUMTUM and Brotherhood of Machines When: Friday, 10.27, 8 p.m. Where: Fort Greene Why: Kind of a more leftfield live dance music/hip-hop night with progressive beat maker Mux Mool, alternative hip-hop duo Curta playing as atruc, electro-guitar-based ambient solo act RUMTUM and Brotherhood of Machines. The latter’s combination of ambient, IDM and dubtechno-flavored beats is always very different from many of the acts in whose company he finds himself. The 2016 album III Pillars was a triptych of hypnotic noise and textured atmospheres that established a sense of place. Except that place wasn’t in normal reality.
Who:Rot Congress Night 1: Loanword, Boat Drinks, Jobless, The Far Stairs, Fake Awake When: Friday, 10.27, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Hot Congress, the long-running indie rock collective, has been hosting this Halloween-themed event for years with some of the best bands out of that corner of the Denver music scene. This first night includes ambient project Loanword is on tap as is lo-fi band Jobless and former Hindershot keyboardist Jesse Livingston’s experimental synth pop band The Far Stairs.
Saturday: October 28, 2017
Who:Cults w/Cullen Omori and Hideout When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Cults made a bit of a splash with its debut EP and “Go Outside” single in 2010. Its evocation of upbeat, breezy 60s pop mixed with a sense of the otherworldly. Like an alternative history science fiction story born out of heartbreak, personal trauma or simply plain wanting to recast a drab and depressing present with something more romantic and meaningful without the cheese factor that often accompanies such impulses and creative work that comes out of them. Cults latest record, 2017’s Offering, finds the band maintaining that Julee Cruise-esque, dreamlike, nostalgic tone but this time with a broader palette of sounds and rhythms. Where some of the earlier music sounded like it was tapping into some of Phil Spector’s Gold Star Studios years’ vibe, Offering sounds more present and immediate. Opener Cullen Omori was once a member of up-and-coming pop/rock band Smith Westerns. When that band split in 2014, Omori continued writing and performing under his own name. The music wasn’t radically different but the tone seemed to shift. Smith Westerns was very rooted in 70s rock. Omori’s solo output is more reminiscent of a modern version of a New Wave band with a gently psychedelic overtone. More synth, more lush sounds overall. His 2016 album, New Misery, sounded like an artist who wasn’t creatively cutting all ties with his old band so much as reinventing it and, um, culling the elements that didn’t work for him the first time around.
Who:TR/ST When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Bar Standard Why: Robert Alfons doesn’t yet have a new record out but TR/ST released a new single, “Bicep,” over the summer. The new track sounds like Alfons is wending more in the direction of EBM than the synth/dance pop of his first two records. TR/ST was one of the few bands that Goth DJs in Denver would play out of the wave of dark electro music that has been very much part of the indie underground since the second half of the 2000s. No, it didn’t sound like Depeche Mode or even Erasure but Alfons’ songs were as dark and moody as anything the former has ever released and as celebratory yet thoughtful as the latter’s best material. When TR/ST recently played Denver it was a well-attended show at The Bluebird so here’s a chance to see the project at a much smaller venue.
Who:Mehvana (as Nirvana), Denver Meatpacking Company (as Hüsker Dü) and Lawsuit Models (as Jimmy Eat World) When: Saturday, 10.28, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Bands performing covers sets for Halloween isn’t the most original thing in the world but all the bands on the bill for this show are at least trying out something different with grunge-esque band Denver Meatpacking Company doing a set of Hüsker Dü songs probably focusing on the middle era. It’s not a huge leap for pop punk band Lawsuit Models to a Jimmy Eat World set but putting yourself in someone else’s creative head space even if you’re influenced by their work takes some effort when you’re not some session musician or someone that generally plays in cover bands.
Who:Sharone & The Wind (“Night of Terror”) w/Black July, 21 Taras and Married a Dead Man When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Moe’s Original Bar B Que Why: It’s a Halloween show that Sharone & The Wind is advertizing as their “Night of Terror” so expect some theatrical shenanigans from the Denver hard rock band. In recent months the band has reinvented itself in a direction more like a cross between a proto-death rock band and a blues-inflected emo group. Sounds like it shouldn’t work but it does. Married a Dead Man is a Goth/death rock band that came out of people who played in the punk and hardcore scene beforehand. Sonically, sort of reminiscent of Sunshine Blind but rougher around the edges at the moment—you know, that ethereal synth with some metallic guitar with a female vocalist who sounds like she is no stranger to belting it a little.
Who:Bob Log III w/Colfax Speed Queen When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake
Why: Bob Log III used to freak people out as the confrontational frontman of Doo Rag. The Crash Worship crowds for whom the duo played probably got it but the Lollapalooza crowd probably wasn’t used to seeing weirdo blues quite that raw and primal. As a solo artist, Bob Log III has only pushed the theatrical side of his act further with strange costumes like a carnie, blues punk Dex Romweber. Denver’s Colfax Speed Queen won’t be quite as stripped down but it’s own psychedelic garage rock is surprisingly forceful and disorienting in its own way.
Who:Lee “Scratch” Perry + Subatomic Sound System w/Gracie Bassie, TNERTLE (solo) When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Other Side Why: Lee “Scratch” Perry is one of the architects of modern music as we know it. As the producer at the now defunct Black Ark in Jamaica, Perry was one of the pioneers of dub, which is a radical remixing and reproduction of existing music and represents one of the earliest forms of electronic music and a creative use of an early version of sampling. Directly or indirectly, as an engineer, producer or musician, Perry shaped the sound of much of reggae music and through that of punk, hip-hop and electronic music from the 70s forward. In recent years, Perry has collaborated with house/experimental electronic band The Orb on original material. His live show is a masterful delivery of his imaginative soundscaping and hypnotic rhythms.
Sunday: October 29, 2017
Who:Ministry w/Death Grips When: Sunday, 10.29, 8 p.m. Where: The Fillmore Auditorium Why: Ministry somehow made the crossover from synth pop (With Sympathy) to EBM (Twitch and to some extent The Land of Rape and Honey) to industrial rock (by the time of The Mind Is A Terrible Thing to Taste) in the course of seven years. It’s a remarkable transformation and at each stage Ministry was one of the very best bands in those respective genres. Since then Ministry’s newer material has been on the heavier end of music though arguably more difficult to neatly classify. The current touring incarnation of Ministry is focusing on material post-1988. If you’ve been switched off for 30 years and are expecting tracks from the EBM era and would be disappointed not to see it live, don’t go. But if you appreciate Al Jourgensen’s mutant heavy music from The Mind forward, it’ll be a worthy selection of material. Death Grips is an industrial hip-hop band with a charismatic frontman in MC Ride and one of modern popular music’s greatest drummers in Zach Hill. Even if you’re not into hip-hop for some reason Death Grips is really more of an experimental band that doesn’t really bother with splitting hairs between the aesthetics of hip-hop, noise, industrial music or whatever its own style might be that comes out of that.
Who:Haunted Sound Laboratory, Unbridled Sonic Anarchy, Chris Sessions, Jonathan Cash When: Sunday, 10.29, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Textures is an ambient showcase that happens at Mutiny the final Sunday of every month. This time, host Wesley Davis’ own Unbridled Sonic Anarchy will be performing alongside Jonathan Cash who some may know more for his noise project Break Dancing Ronald Reagan.
Who:Vanilla Milkshakes, Denver Meatpacking Company and Uncle Bad Touch When: Sunday, 10.29, 8 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: This is another Halloween-themed show and apparently grunge/punk band Vanilla Milkshakes will treat those in attendance with its take on The Ramones and DMC will reprise its Hüsker Dü cover set from the night before.
Who:2Mex, Onry Ozzborn, Early Adopted and Curta When: Sunday, 10.29, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: 2Mex may not be a household name but in the alternative hip-hop scene of the 1990s (and now for that matter) he has long been a star. His witty and imaginative wordplay was honed at the open mic nights at Good Life Café in South Central Los Angeles and he has been willing to couch it in beats that reflect popular music of the time. More importantly his raps criticize his own music culture, American culture in general and himself with humorously poetic sensibility. Onry Ozzborn is a respected alternative hip-hop artist in his own right whose music seems to favor darker tones and downtempo beats. As a member of Grayskul and Dark Time Sunshine Ozzborn’s gritty stories were reminiscent of Aesop Rock’s literary output, and of course the two rappers have collaborated. Opening act, Denver’s Curta, incorporates a more industrial and psychedelic/experimental electronic flavor into its beats. Apparently this will be the last show with founding keyboardist/guitarist Brent Larsen, aka 4Digit who is moving out of town.
Who:Governor Mortimer Leech (Widow’s Bane) undead and unplugged When: Sunday, 10.29, 6 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box Why: Widow’s Bane is the undead pirate band from Boulder. They do interviews in character and perform in character. Is it “character”? Anyway, Governor Mortimer Leech will be performing a rare acoustic show early at Ophelia’s and it’s free.
Monday: October 30, 2017
Who:Cobalt, Worry and Fathers When: Monday, 10.30, 7:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Greeley-based black metal band Cobalt didn’t play much in the first decade or so of its existence and nevertheless garnered a bit of an international following. Founding member Phil McSorley left the project in 2014 but Erik Wunder (who also plays in one of Jarboe’s bands) and Charlie Fell (formerly of Lord Mantis, Nachtmystium and Abigail Williams) have kept the band going and completed its best album to day, 2016’s Slow Forever. The band’s previous records were boundary pushing in what can be an insular musical style and Slow Forever‘s expansive dynamism sacrificing none of the bleakness and brutality was something of a new chapter for the band. Colorado Springs-based deathgrind band Worry and Denver’s heavy band super group (with members of Native Daughters, Cult of the Lost Cause and Lords of Fuzz) round out the bill.
Who:Ghoulfriend, Corner Girls, Page 27, art by Katherine Louise, Jesse Nickell and poetry by Kelsey Carolyn Bowe When: Monday, 10.30, 7:30 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Ghouloween 2017 will be held in the basement of Syntax for extra spookiness. It’ll be a night of art, music and poetry. Chances are you won’t see the bands on the same bill again any time soon. Ghoulfriend is weirdo guitar project of Trey Tafoya of Ancient Elk and déCollage. Some bands play psychedelic rock, Ghoulfriend takes the concept of using guitar to expand sound palettes to a higher and more original level while still making it accessible. Page 27 is one of Denver’s, and the world’s, longest-running noise bands. Now, P27’s soundscape has included harsh noise and sometimes still does but it’s more like a hypnotic, modulated drone that pulls in sounds that one does not often associate with the genre called drone. Corner Girls is an excellent surf rock/punk band whose lyrics are often enough an irreverent take-down of patriarchal cultural features that should have been weeded out of our collective unconscious decades ago but somehow still linger and affect people’s everyday lives. Addressing it with music is simply a peaceful and creative way to discuss the issues.
Tuesday: October 31, 2017
Who: Alvvays w/Jay Som bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/337225 When: Tuesday, 10.31, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Alvvays’ self-deprecating pop songs could be glum but Molly Rankin and company seem to realize that wallowing in despair rather than finding the humor in life’s downstrokes is more boring than transforming those moments of intense emotions into something creative. The Toronto band’s promising 2014 debut sounded like a band fully formed and tapping a bit into the pop music that came out of the C86 era in its sophisticated simplicity and unabashed embrace of bright and breezy, catchy melodies. The 2017 album, Antisocialites is highlighted with neon-sounding synths like someone in the band has started listening more closely to Missing Persons including the flourishes of tastefully intricate micro guitar solos. The subtle details make it a consistently rewarding listen. Along for this leg of the Alvvays tour is Jay Som whose lo-fi anthems about identity, self-discovery, self-definition and personal liberation seem very relevant in a time when the boorish, hateful and oppressive side of modern American culture has reared its ugly head in a big way. 2017’s Everybody Works is a bracing antidote to all of that even if it may sound like a gentle indie rock record to many.
Who:Itchy-O w/Altas When: Tuesday, 10.31, 8 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: For the uninitiated, Itchy-O is a roughly 32 member avant-garde music performance troupe that plays its shows entirely in costume like mariachi mystics. The band has a full drum corps and other percussion, a taiko section, bass, guitar, synths, processed vocals and other noises and “dancers” that creep about the crowd during the show. It’s a real spectacle and really unlike other bands in every way. That it can release albums that could be worthy of the live show seems implausible but the band recently released its second full-length album, From the Overflowing, on Alternative Tentacles. The records are no replacement for the experience of the band but fascinating listening nevertheless. Instrumental rock band Altas opens the show with its dynamic, cinematic compositions.
Who: Space In Time, Keef Duster, Colfax Speed Queen and Wild Call When: Tuesday, 10.31, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Space in Time is a hard rock band whose sound harkens to a time when early metal and psychedelic rock were not at all far apart. Obvious touchstones for Space in Time would be Deep Purple, Captain Beyond (which included ex-members of Deep Purple and Iron Butterfly) and Uriah Heep with both bands’ gift for writing melodic heavy rock with a fluidly trippy groove. Keef Duster’s music draws on similar inspirations but wends more toward the doom end of the heavy spectrum. Fronted by Kim Phat, who some may know from garage rock punks Dirty Few, Keef Duster is more than a clever name even though it recently released a song called “Hash Hive.” The latter was mixed and produced by Matt Loui of psychedelic garage rock band Colfax Speed Queen, also on the bill.
Who:Captured! By Robots w/908, Bewitcher and Night of the Living Shred When: Tuesday, 10.31, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Captured! By Robots at this point is a great metal band, bordering on death metal and industrial. Most of the band is comprised of robots constructed by JBOT but a lot of the kitsch factor of the earlier part of the project’s life are gone and the performance is much more focused on doing something that isn’t a complete gimmick. Internationally known deathgrind band 908, from Colorado Springs, shares the bill as does skate thrash band Night of the Living Shred. So basically Bryan Ostrow will be doing throat destroying vocals for two bands this night because he’s the Nivek Ogre of extreme metal.
Who: Bronze, Terminals, Master Ferocious, The Pollution and The Stunning Cuntz When: Tuesday, 10.31, 9 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Three of the handful of good sludge metal bands from Denver at Mutiny? We’ll have to assume some books will fall off shelves at some point. Bronze is named in reference to Mad Max and its heavy music is more tied to bands from the 70s and early 80s with strong songwriting and good vocals rather than the 90s and 2000s stoner rock bands it may sound like. When there seemed to be way too many stoner rock bands in Denver from roughly 2000-2010, Bronze stood out. Members of Master Ferocious came out of some of the better bands of that era too like The Angry Hand of God. Out of the latter, guitarist Mark Pilloud and bassist Brian Kennedy were involved in the founding of Master Ferocious in 2014 and the newer band still seems to write dystopian songs about the present with guitar work that demonstrates an interesting co-influence from, of course, Black Sabbath and late 70s Judas Priest.
Wednesday: November 1, 2017
Who:Slowdive w/Cherry Glazerr When: Wednesday, 11.01, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Of all the shoegaze bands of the late 80s and early 90s, Slowdive was an early adopter of an ambient and electronic music aesthetic. When the group started as a kind of indie pop band called Pumpkin Fairies, its songwriting, inspired in part by atmospheric post-punk bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees (the song of whom the fledgling band borrowed its then new name), The Cure and Cocteau Twins. For the 1991 debut full-length, Just For A Day, the ethereal vocals that one now associates with the shoegaze genre was very much in place and so were the expansive, towering guitar drones that the band had developed on its previous EPs.
By the time of the 1993 follow-up, Souvlaki, Slowdive was working with ambient music godfather Brian Eno and had all but abandoned conventional rhythm structure in favor of more organic rhythms giving songs like “Sing” and “Souvlaki Space Station” a quality that melds the tone and the atmosphere into what might later be described as a beat-driven approach to the songwriting. Those musical instincts reached their peak with Slowdive on what might have been its final, and in some ways most daring and interesting album, 1995’s Pygmalion. The latter came out at a time when the alternative music world had long gone down the rockist path with a set of songs based in what seemed like a sonic recreation of pure emotion cast in minimalist textures. It was like a post-rock album seemingly inspired by and synthesizing IDM, abstract dub and ambient house music. The innovative record lost the band their label contract with Creation records and the members of Slowdive went on to other musical concerns over the years including Mojave 3, Monster Movie and The Sight Below.
Perhaps inevitably, Slowdive reunited in 2014 but under its own terms and with the aim of recreating its heart and imagination-stirring music authentically. And its subsequent tours have borne that goal out. Making no promises until the possibility was a bit of a concrete reality, the band didn’t announce new material until Spring 2016. The forthcoming self-titled album, released in May 2017, was not a rehash of the band’s past. It was not an attempt to outdo the sheer experimentalism of Pygmalion. Rather, it was a strong set of songs worthy of all of its earlier music. The music doesn’t feel like nostalgia, it feels like the band knew it had to do something that wouldn’t reject the past but also not be yoked to expectations of any lack of artistic growth on the part of the musicians over the previous twenty-two years. So if you go to the show, and you should if you’re a fan of highly emotionally stimulating music that is an unexpectedly visceral experience, no need to dread any newer, inferior material because the most recent Slowdive songs are far from subpar.
Who: Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars, Ice Troll, Dear Rabbit and Open to the Hound When: Wednesday, 11.01, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: This might be the deluxe edition of Claudia Woodman’s Weird Wednesday series for the first half of the month. Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars is “Electronica Glam Rock” that includes contributions from Never Kenezzard’s Ryan Peru. Ice Troll is a sort of doom rock orchestra. Dear Rabbit is lo-fi avant-garde folk. Open to the Hound is what might happen if Lloyd Cole formed a band that took some cues from The The and Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. It’s just that weird but grounded in classic songwriting sensibilities.
Who:Chicano Batman w/Khruangbin and The Shacks When: Wednesday, 11.01, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: To say Chicano Batman is sort of a psychedelic soul band doesn’t quite do it justice because its music comes out of tropicalia, old timey rock and roll and funk without sounding like it’s trying too hard to please everyone. Live, the group presents a unified visual image with matching outfits as one might expect from 60s and 70s Chicano rock bands like Thee Midnighters and Sunny & The Sunglows. Early on championed by the late, great, Ikey Owens, Chicano Batman got a leg up reaching a wider audience through a 2015 tour with Jack White, with whom Owens had been playing before his untimely death in October 2014. The group’s 2017 album, Freedom is Free, is a bracing antidote to the climate of chaos, desperation and despair that many people have been experiencing with the Trump administration by offering an alternative vision for a better America and a world.
Houston’s Khruangbin is a Thai surf-funk-soul band so it and Chicano Batman are a perfect compliment to one another as Kruangbin’s music isn’t grounded in the same influences even if the music it’s music is also not inspired by music from just one place and one time. Inspired initially by Thai funk cassettes from the 60s and 70s, Khruangbin has found fuel for its creativity in the music that influenced those bands and the music that resulted from those roots that manifested in various ways. Dub, Afrobeat, reggae and hip-hop, among others.